Thai court denies bail for "Merchant of Death"
(dpa) - The Bangkok Criminal Court on Tuesday denied bail to Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, dubbed the "Merchant of Death," on the grounds that it feared he might flee the country.
"This is a serious case and he may leave the country, so the court is not allowing the bail for the suspect," the court said in a statement made available to the press.
Acting on a tip-off from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Thai police arrested Bout, 41, last Thursday at a Bangkok hotel and charged him with illegal arms trafficking.
If the Thai court refuses to open a case against Bout, on grounds of insufficient evidence, it is likely the Russian will be extradited to the US where there is a warrant out for his arrest on charges of attempting to sell millions of dollars worth of arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Russia, which has hired a Thai lawyer for Bout, may also demand Thai authorities deport the suspected arms dealer back home.
Bout's lawyer Lick Nitiwattanawijarn has denied his client was an international arms trafficker, and offered the court 500,000 baht (16,130 dollars) to release him on bail, which was denied Tuesday.
Bout, who has been dubbed as the "Merchant of Death" by a British government official, is a former officer in the Soviet army.
He has since become one of the most notorious arms dealers in the world, accused of selling weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan and to the al-Qaeda terrorist network. Bout has denied the past charges.
The 2005 movie Lord of War, starring Nicholas Cage, was supposedly inspired by Bout, and the 2007 book Merchant of Death - Money, Guns, Planes and the Man Who Makes War Possible is an expose of his life.